Bragg calls for strong humanitarian engagement with SL

Friday, 28 January 2011 03:12 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg called for strong engagement with the Sri Lankan Government following her humanitarian mission to Sri Lanka last week.

She urged donors to give generously and to keep in mind both the medium and longer-term assistance that was needed to restore lives and livelihoods, chiefly in the agricultural sector.

Briefing correspondents yesterday (26) at the UN Headquarters on her humanitarian mission to Sri Lanka last week, she said the humanitarian needs in the country were “still significant” and activities should be stepped up to address the most critical.

In response to correspondents’ questions,  Bragg said she had not discussed any matters pertaining to the United Nations panel on accountability issues relating to alleged violations of human rights and humanitarian law during the final stages of the conflict in Sri Lanka, as that issue had not come up during her visit. Nor did she have any plans to meet the panel members over the matter, she added.

She said that the need to strengthen partnerships between United Nations agencies and local government structures, as Sri Lanka moved beyond the years of conflict was also discussed during her visit.

While there had been “quite a bit of progress” in the country since the cessation of fighting in May 2009, she had returned from the country with the sense that a lot more work still needed to be done.

Regarding the flood-affected areas in the eastern part of the country, she said she had the sense of how overwhelmed the affected communities were and how their ability to withstand further shocks had been severely affected. The region and its population had already suffered multiple threats — from the tsunami to the conflict, and now the floods — making the vulnerability very real and acute, she added.

While there, she said she had launched a flash appeal to raise some $51 million of emergency funds for the immediate humanitarian needs of the more than 1 million flood victims. She had also been able to announce that the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) would contribute a further $6 million immediately to jumpstart priority programmes.

Expressing her views regarding the lives of people in the North, she said, “It is clear that there are still immediate humanitarian needs that we must address now.”

Noting significant progress in the past year in Government-led efforts towards resettlement, she said that only 20,000 of the 300,000 persons displaced at the height of the crisis remained in Government-run camps.

However, due to difficulties in clearing landmines, combined with the lack of basic services in the home areas, those remaining in the camps were expected to stay there until at least mid-year, and would thus continue to need humanitarian assistance. Additionally, many thousands of people who had left the formal camps were either in transitional shelters, where they still required assistance, or had returned to areas where basic services and infrastructure were not yet in place.

Furthermore, although the Government had committed significant resources to infrastructure in the return areas, most of the returnees currently had limited access to basic services such as shelter, water and sanitation and health care. Those communities remained extremely vulnerable.

“The future of the north is about investing in people. They need skills, livelihoods and social development to help them move on with their lives,” Bragg stated.

In her meetings with various Government officials, including the ministers of economic development, defence, and disaster management, she said she had reaffirmed the support of the United Nations and non-governmental organisations, especially in rebuilding the Northern Province. She had discussed how that support could be more effective with more relaxed operating conditions for non-governmental organisations. In particular, she had discussed facilitating access for humanitarian organisations, to which the feedback had been “fairly positive”.

Not essential for the Expert Panel to visit Sri Lanka, UN says

New York: The United Nations says that it is not essential for the Panel of Experts appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to probe Sri Lanka’s accountability issues to travel to the country for it to complete its work.

Martin Nesirky, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General revealed this at the daily press briefing on Wednesday in response to a question directed to Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator whether she had any discussions with the Sri Lankan government regarding the Experts Panel during her visit to Sri Lanka last week.

Nesirky said the issue of a visit is under discussion and the Panel continues to discuss its interaction with the Sri Lankan authorities.

“The Panel said from the outset that a visit to Sri Lanka was not essential for the work it was carrying out, but it does seek to have interactions with various Sri Lankan actors,” he said.

Last month the UN said the Panel is working on potential arrangements for a visit to Sri Lanka and Sri Lanka’s Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) appointed by President, Mahinda Rajapaksa to probe the events during the war said it will hear the Panel.